DUBUQUE, Iowa — The Dubuque Fighting Saints organization is formally nominating the Randall family as USHL Billet Family of the Year. The Randall family hosted forwards P.J. Fletcher and Andrei Buyalsky in their first season as a host family.
“David and Lynn, along with their children, Madison and Tyler, provided an outstanding family life for P.J. and Andrei,” said Amy Edwards, the Fighting Saints’ housing coordinator. “These first-time billets overcame illnesses, injuries, quarantines, and a profound language barrier, all while learning the ropes.”
“I’m grateful the Randalls joined the program this year and I’m proud of the way they lovingly embraced every challenge. The best is yet to come; the ongoing relationships with their billet sons will be so rewarding.”
The Randall family had interest in being a host family the previous season, but respectfully declined due to the athletics schedule of their children. They jumped into the fray for the 2020–21 season and proved to be a great fit right away.
“We are extremely honored to be nominated for this league award,” said Lynn Randall. “This past year was such an incredible experience. We had the privilege of hosting two outstanding young men who already feel like a part of our family.”
Fletcher, from Dana Point, California, played his first and solitary season for the Fighting Saints after departing from Quinnipiac University. Later in the season, he committed to Miami University of Ohio, a team in an extraordinarily competitive NCHC.
The Randalls proved their strong empathy, even when Fletcher had to quarantine in the basement nearly right away due to a bout of COVID-19. The family made sure to connect with him via FaceTime throughout the day to keep him engaged with everyone and feel less alone.
“The Randalls went above and beyond for me and Andrei. Even when I got sick, they made sure I was taken care of. Their kids were super supportive too,” Fletcher said. “It seems like they’ve been doing it for 15 years. You wouldn’t assume that they were brand-new billet parents. The way they did things for us was awesome.”
Buyalsky, hailing from Karaganda, Kazakhstan, did not speak English upon his arrival to Dubuque in December. But thanks to his own efforts, and the unwavering support of the Randall family, he was able to competently speak, write and understand English as a second language. He also committed to the University of Vermont, part of the Hockey East conference, for his upcoming collegiate career.
The Randalls relied on Google Translate quite a bit in the beginning when he arrived around Christmas, but they turned the language barrier obstacle into a fun game and learning opportunity. They played “Russian Tuesdays,” where the family could not get something to eat for dinner until they learned a new word in Russian.
“The Randalls gave me a wonderful home in Dubuque,” Buyalsky said. “They were there for me every step of the way.”
Lynn noted the maturity and integrity that both Fletcher and Buyalsky possessed, and the top-notch influence they had on their two kids.
This year was beyond difficult for everyone in many ways, but it further exemplified the commitment and dedication that is necessary to be a host family, whether it is in Dubuque, or anywhere throughout the junior hockey landscape.
“All of our billet families are to be commended for their efforts during this extraordinary hockey season amidst the pandemic,” Edwards said. “Their devotion to their billet sons and their dedication to the Dubuque Fighting Saints organization was admirable, and I appreciate each family for their efforts.”
"In an especially trying year with the pandemic and extra safety precautions for our players, our billet families have played such a key part in a successful 2020–21 season," said USHL President & Commissioner Tom Garrity. "All of our billet families for all of our teams did an outstanding job and we cannot thank them enough, but we are again excited to give our Clubs the opportunity to highlight specific families that they feel went above and beyond in the duties that we ask of them every season."